Journal of American Indian Education

Volume 2 Number 3
October 1962



by Jan Abbott

In teaching the English language to a non-English speaking individual, our goal is to help that person become a functioning member of our culture. We must help him to understand what kind of communication will be permitted, and what kind will be resented. We must help him to keep certain channels open for communication.

It is logical that the first verbal contacts between individuals of different languages and cultures will be found in everyday greetings. Greetings are for real. They are something to hold on to. Greetings must be learned properly or they may lead into unexpected difficulties.

Some greetings are picked up as a matter of course. Others involve judgments. The right response must be given for what is expected or hoped for. Greetings may just be expressions of friendliness, or they may actually categorize a person. It is the attitude we respond to, rather than the greeting. We must train the student what to look for as well as what to listen for.

Although the classroom situation is limited, it can be utilized quite effectively if we take advantage of every opportunity which may present itself. It is a mark of friendliness to say "Good Morning," and "Hello" can be used any time. Visitors do come into the classroom, and introductions help prepare the student for meeting the wider community of the English speaking world.

Of course, if the class is comprised of both English and non-English speaking students, which it should be for an effective learning situation, then the opportunity for imitation is ever-present, and should be utilized as often as possible. Not only the teaching of greetings, but the teaching of every facet of language development is facilitated and made more effective by this opportunity to imitate. Listen and repeat—observe and imitate-and thus learning takes place.

Greetings and Courtesies of English

When we consider human relations, we see the need for suitable greetings in the local community. Appropriate greetings, offered with correct pronunciation and intonation, are effective in improving human relations anywhere we might be. And these greetings can be quickly learned through the processes of hearing, imitating and repeating.

Listen. Repeat. Memorize. These are the three basic principles of learning to speak any new language effectively.

The sound systems of a language, its intonation and its rhythm should be taught as part of listening, reading, speaking and writing. The pupils' initial contact with the flow of speech will come from hearing the sentences the teacher gives orally, by repeating them without seeing them, and then by repeating them with the words before their eyes. (4:127)

The activities connected with language learning may be adapted to the age of the learner. Language should be taught in a context which has meaning for the age group and ability level of the learner, and should take the pupils from the confines of the classroom into the wider community of the English speaking world.

Sample Lesson in Greetings

A possible first lesson with beginners (4:318):


A. Topic—greetings and identification.

B. Aims—general

1. To develop language competence.

2. To present forms of greeting and of identification in English-speaking countries.


1. To teach meanings and use of expressions such as

"Good Morning," or "Good Evening."

"What is your name?"

"My name is _______________


C. Teacher pre-planning.

1. Get a list of your pupils' names and addresses.

2. Have library cards and pencils available.


D. Approach and Development.

1. When pupils are seated the teacher will greet the class with a cheery and smiling "Good Morning." By gestures (pointing to them and opening her mouth as though to speak) she will ask them to say "Good Morning" in chorus. Much choral and individual practice is given.

2. Depending on the age of the pupils, this expression is written on the board and followed again by chorus and individual repetition.

3. After sufficient practice has been given in "Good Morning," the teacher will point to herself and say: "My name is _______________. She will repeat that two or three times and will write her name only at the blackboard.

4. Then, using her class list, she will call a child by name. When the child raises her hand, the teacher will say softly, "Joseph Lee." "Say" (this is in a louder voice and with gestures) "My name is Joseph Lee."

5. Joseph Lee repeats, "My name is Joseph Lee."

6. After each pupil has been called upon in this way, each person is asked to stand and to introduce himself; e.g. "Good Morning. My name is (own name)."


E. Follow up.

The next lesson may consist of the teacher's making "What is your name" a part of the pupils' active vocabulary.

F. Steps in development.

1. The next step is to teach the children to ask, "What is your name?"

2. Teacher should walk up to two students and indicate by gestures that one student will be asking another student his name.

3. Choral repetition.

4. Individual repetition.

5. Practice.


Class members may take turns greeting guests, introducing visitors, and serving as hosts and hostesses for class parties or programs.

Frances G. Koenig said that "Deviation from the average local speech pattern causes tension." (7:183-186) This tension can be released by such things as puppetry and music. These release the child from the feeling of being observed alone. He thus has something else to occupy his attention.

When a child realizes that there is a use for what he is learning, he proceeds faster than when he is learning only to please the teacher.

We must provide experiences for language pattern teaching through (1) arranging experiences which give rise to language, and (2) presenting a language pattern around which situations for presentation and practice are built. (4:122)

All activities should lead to the development of language competency and to an understanding of the cultural values of the country whose language is being learned.


Finocchiaro gives us some suggestions for vocabulary and pattern teaching:

1. The initial vocabulary and sentence patterns to be developed should arise, if possible, from an experience in which the pupils themselves have participated.

2. Vocabulary and sentence patterns should be clearly inter-related and should be pertinent to a specific topic or experience.

3. Important sentence patterns for active use should be practiced until students can understand them and use them in any communication situation.

4. New language forms should be presented and practiced with a limited known vocabulary. It is unwise to bring in at one time more than one new language difficulty.

5. Language should be built on patterns or forms over which pupils already have some control, for example:

a. You know John.

b. (Do) you know John?

c. (Do) you know John's (brother)?

6. Other words can and should be substituted within the same sentence pattern. Knowing most of the parts of a sentence gives the pupils needed confidence. To illustrate:

a. Do they know (Mary)?

b. (Do) (we) see (John)?

c. (Do) (you) recognize (Frank)?

d. (Do) (1) like (Henry)?

7. Structural patterns which are familiar to pupils should be reintroduced and practiced again and again in other situations or with other experiences.

8. For beginning teaching, structural patterns should be selected on the basis of the following criteria:

a. They are easily demonstrable in the classroom.

b. They are useful in a wide number of situations.

c. Whenever this is possible, they are similar to structural patterns in the pupils native tongue.


Teachers will find that "Boxing" or "Framing" basic patterns helps pupils to see the basic structure and to combine and manipulate vocabulary and grammatical items. An example of boxing would be:

Mother May I Present John.

John May I Present ________

Miss Jones May I Present ________


This boxing is to help make clear to pupils the form or pattern of the language as used in these greetings.

Choral Response

According to Nelson Brooks, a repetition by the entire class of what has just been said by the teacher may be improved by following these suggestions:

1. Do not repeat with the students; make them wait until your utterance is finished. Use your hands to indicate when they are to perform. Insist that all the details of intonation, loudness, pause and change of pitch be observed.

2. Do not let a response drag in tempo—a whole class can repeat an utterance at the same speed as a single person. (2:178)

Pattern Practice

For pattern practice the teacher selects greetings currently being emphasized and prepares a list of these for oral exercise in class. These are done without reference to printed words. Once they are well done as talk, they may then be redone, using both reading and writing.

Getting the student to talk consists mainly in providing him with the models to which he can refer as be speaks.

Examples of Language Patterns for Active Control

Word Order: My name is _______________

Question Pattern: Who are you? or What is your name?

Who is he? or What is his name?

Answer Pattern: I am __________ Or My name is _________

He is _________ or His name is _________


Some of the situations in which different types of greetings are called for are suggested by the following categories: Family introductions, casual greetings, greetings requiring no audible answer, formal greetings, greetings requiring permission, greetings at parties, penitent greetings, endearing greetings, telephone greetings, and seasonal greetings.

There is virtually no end to the variations on the theme of informal greetings. Yet in formal situations, greetings are quite rigid and narrow. If students are taught the correct formal greetings of our language, these may be substituted quite frequently in informal use, without too much fear of ridicule or misinterpretation. "Hello" and "How do you do" are always acceptable. It is the informal word which is more likely to become the downfall of the unwary. We must make the student aware of all the relevant clues which might trap him into a compromising response.

Informal greetings from strangers present all kinds of possibilities!

All language should be taught in a context which has meaning for the age group and the ability level of the learners, with emphasis on the integration of language and culture.

Remember, when we teach greetings we are also teaching "signals"—clues to attitudes, to feelings, and to future behavior. Let's teach them with significance. Let's teach them well.


1. Boykin, Eleanor, This Way, Please, Macmillan Co. N. Y. 1949.

2. Brooks, Nelson, Language and Language Learning, Harcourt, Brace and World, Inc., New York and Burlingame, 1960.

3. Clark, Mary E. and Quigley, Margery C., Etiquette Jr., Doubleday Doran and Co., Garden City, N. Y. 1931.

4. Finocchiaro, Mary, Teaching English As A Second Language, Harper and Bros., New York, 1958.

5. Hadida, Sophie C., Manners for Millions, Doubleday Doran and Co., 1936.

6. Harter, Helen, English is Fun. Tempe, Arizona, 1960.

7. Koenig, Frances G. "Improving Language Abilities of Bilingual Children," Exceptional Children, February 1953, pp. 183-186.

8. Moffett, M. Ledge, When We Meet Socially, Prentice-Hall, New York, 1940.

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